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Full text of "The Deacon's week and What Deacon Baxter said"

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DEACON EMMONS. 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



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WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 



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THE DEACON'S WEEK 



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THE DEACON'S WEEK 



nPHE communion service of January was 
* just over in the church at Sugar 
Hollow, and people were waiting for Mr. 
Parkes to give out 
the hymn, but he did 
not give it out ; he 
laid his book down 
on the table, and 
looked about on his 
church. 

He was a man of 
simplicity and sincer- 
ity, fully in earnest to 

do his Lord's work, _ _ 

and do it with all his ~ zlz 

might, but he did sometimes feel discouraged. 
His congregation was a mixture of farmers 
and mechanics, for Sugar Hollow was cut in 
two by Sugar Brook, a brawling, noisy stream 




6 THE DEACON'S WEEK 

that turned the wheel of many a mill and 
manufactory, yet on the hills around it there 
was still a scattered population eating their 
bread in the full perception of the primeval 
curse. So he had to contend with the keen 
brain and skeptical comment of the men who 







piqued themselves on power to hammer at 
theological problems as well as hot iron, with 
the jealousy and repulsion and bitter feeling 
that has bred the communistic hordes abroad 
and at home ; while perhaps he had a still 
harder task to awaken the sluggish souls of 
those who used their days to struggle with 
barren hillside and rocky pasture for mere 
food and clothing, and their nights to sleep 



THE DEACON'S WEEK J 

the dull sleep of physical fatigue and mental 
vacuity. 

It seemed sometimes to Mr. Parkes that 
nothing but the trump of Gabriel could 
arouse his people from their sins and make 
them believe on the Lord and follow his 
footsteps. To-day — no, a long time before 
to-day — he had mused and prayed till 
an idea took shape in his thought, and 
now he was to put it in practice; yet he 
felt peculiarly responsible and solemnized 
as he looked about him and foreboded the 
success of his experiment. Then there 
flashed across him, as words of Scripture 
will come back to the habitual Bible reader, 
the noble utterance of Gamaliel concerning 
Peter and his brethren when they stood 
before the council : '* If this counsel or this 
work be of men, it will come to nought: but 
if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it." So 
with a sense of strength the minister spoke. 

'* My dear friends," he said, '' you all 
know, though I did not give any notice to 
that effect, that this week is the Week of 



8 THE DEACON'S WEEK 

Prayer. I have a mind to ask you to make it, 
for this once, a week of practice instead. I 
think we may discover some things, some 
of the things of God, in this manner that 
a succession of prayer meetings would not 
perhaps so thoroughly reveal to us. Now 
when I say this I don't mean to have you 
go home and vaguely endeavor to walk 
straight in the old way ; I w^ant you to 
take ' topics/ as they are called, for the 
prayer meetings. For instance, Monday is 
prayer for the temperance work. Try all 
that day to be temperate in speech, in act, 
in indulgence of any kind that is hurtful 
to you. The next day is for Sunday- 
schools ; go and visit your scholars, such 
of you as are teachers, and try to feel that 
they have living souls to save. Wednesday 
is a day for fellowship meeting ; we are 
cordially invited to attend a union meeting 
of this sort at Bantam. . Few of us can go 
twenty-five miles to be with our brethren 
there ; let us spend that day in cultivating 
our brethren here ; let us go and see those 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 9 

who have been cold to us for some reason, 
heal up our breaches of friendship, confess 
our shortcomings one to another, and act 
as if, in our Master's words, ' all ye are 
brethren/ 

*'Thursda\ i^ the day to pray for the 
family relation ; let us each try to be to 
our families on that day in our measure 
what the Lord is to his family, the Church, 
remembering the words, ' Fathers, provoke 
not your children to anger;' 'Husbands, 
love your wives, and be not bitter against 
them.' These are texts rarely commented 
upon, I have noticed, in our conference 
meetings ; we are more apt to speak of 
the obedience due from children, and the 
submission and meekness our wives owe 
us, forgetting that duties are always recip- 
rocal. 

** Friday the Church is to be prayed for. 
Let us • then each for himself try to act 
that day just as we think Christ, our 
great Exemplar, would have acted in our 
places. Let us try to prove to ourselves. 



lO 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



and the world about us that we have not 
taken upon us his name Hghtly or in 
vain. Saturday is prayer day for the heathen 
and foreign missions. Brethren, you know 
and I know that there are heathen at our 
doors here ; let every one of you who will, 

take that day to 
preach the gos- 
pel to some one 
who does not 
hear it anywhere 
else. Perhaps 
you will find work 
that ye knew not 
of lying in your 
midst. And let 
us all on Satur- 
day evening 
AMOS TUCKER meet here again 

and choose some one brother to relate his 
experience of the week. You who are will- 
ing to try this method, please to rise." 

Everybody rose except old Amos Tucker, 
who never stirred, though his wife pulled at 




THE DEACON'S WEEK I I 

him and whispered to him imploringly. He 
only shook his grizzled head and sat im- 
movable. 

*' Let us sing the doxology," said Mr. 
Parkes ; and it was sung with full fervor. 
The new idea had roused the church fully ; 
it was something fixed and positive to do ; 
it was the lever-point Archimedes longed 
for, and each felt ready and strong to move 
a world. 

Saturday night the church assembled again. 
The cheerful eagerness w^as gone from their 
faces ; they looked downcast, troubled, 
weary — as the pastor expected. When 
the box for ballots was passed about, each 
one tore a bit of paper from the sheet placed 
in the hymn books for that purpose, and, 
wTOte on it a name. The pastor said after 
he had counted them : — 

** Deacon Emmons, the lot has fallen on 
you." 

" I 'm sorry for 't,'* said the deacon, rising up 
and taking off his overcoat. *' I ha'n't got the 
best of records, Mr. Parkes, now I tell ye." 



12 THE DEACON'S WEEK 

''That isn't what we want," said Mr. 
Parkes. " We want to know the whole 
experience of some one among us, and we 
know you will not tell us either more or less 
than what you did experience." 

Deacon Emmons was a short, thickset 
man, with a shrewd, kindly face and gray 
hair, who kept the village store and had a 
well-earned reputation for honesty. 

''Well, brethren," he said, " I do' 'no' why 
I should n't tell it. I am pretty well ashamed 
of myself, no doubt, but I ought to be, and 
maybe I shall profit by what I 've found out 
these six days back. I'll tell you just as 
it come. 

" Monday, I looked about me to begin 
with. I am amazinof fond of coffee, and 
it a'n't good for me ; the doctor says it 
a'n't, but dear me ! it does set a man up 
good, cold mornings to have a cup of hot, 
sweet, tasty drink, and I haven't had the 
grit to refuse ! I knew it made me what 
folks call nervous, and I call cross, before 
night come ; and I knew it fetched on 



THE DEA COX'S WEEK' I 3 

spells of low spirits when our folks could n't 
get a word out of me — not a good one, 
any way ; so I thought 1 'd try on that to 
begin with. I tell you it come hard ! I 
hankered after that drink of coffee dread- 
ful ! Seemed as though I could n't eat my 
breakfast without it. More 'n I ever did 
in my life before I feel to pity a man 
that loves liquor ; but I feel sure they can 
stop if they try, for I Ve stopped, and I 'm 
a-goin' to stay stopped. 

*' Well, come to dinner, there was another 
fight. I do set by pie the most of anything. 
I was fetched up on pie, as you may say. 
Our folks always had it three times a day, 
and the doctor, he 's been talkin' and talkin' 
to me about eatin' pie. I have the dys- 
pepsy like everything, and it makes me 
useless by spells, and onreliable as a 
weathercock. An' Dr. Drake, he says there 
won't nothing help me but to diet. I 
was readin' the Bible that morning while 
1 sat waiting for breakfast, for 'twas Mon- 
day, and wife was kind of set back with 



14 THE DEACON'S WEEK 

« 

washin' and all, and I come acrost that 
part where it says that the bodies of Chris- 
tians are temples of the Holy Ghost. Well, 
thinks I, we 'd ought to take care of 'em 
if they be, and see that they 're kep' clean 
and pleasant, like the church ; and nobody 
can be clean nor pleasant that has dys- 
pepsy. But come to pie, I felt as though 
I could n't ! and, lo ye, I did n't ! I eet a 
piece right against my conscience; facin' 
what I knew I ought to do, I went and 
done what I ought not to. I tell ye my 
conscience made music of me consider'ble, 
and I said then I would n't never sneer#at 
a drinkin' man no more when he slipped ilp. 
I 'd feel for him and help him, for I see 
just how it was. So that day's practice giv' 
out, but it learnt me a good deal more 'n I 
knew before. 

'' I started out next day to look up my 
Bible class. They have n't really tended up 
to Sunday-school as they ought to, along 
back, but I was busy, here and there, and 
there did n't seem to be a real chance to 



THE DEACOyS WLhh 



15 



get to it. Well, 'twould take the evenin' 
to tell it all. but I found one real sick, 
been abed for three weeks, and was so 
crlad to see me that I felt fair ashamed. 
Seemed as though I heerd the Lord for 
the first time sayin', ' Inasmuch as ye did 
it not to one of the least of these, ye 




did it not to me/ Then another man's old 
mother says to rae before he come in from 
the shed, says she, * He 's been a-sayin' 
that if folks practiced what they preached 
you *d ha' come round to look him up afore 
now, but he reckoned you kinder looked 



1 6 THE DEACON'S WEEK 

down on mill hands. I 'm awful glad you 
come.' Brethring, so was If I tell you 
that day's work done me good. I got a poor 
opinion of Josiah Emmons, now I tell ye, 
but I learned more about the Lord's wisdom 
than a month o' Sundays ever showed me." 

A smile he could not repress passed over 
Mr. Parkes' earnest face. The deacon had 
forgotten all external issues in coming so 
close to the heart of things ; but the smile 
passed as he said : — 

'' Brother Emmons, do you remember 
what the Master said, ' If any man will 
do his will, he shall know of the doc- 
trine, whether it be of God, or whether I 
speak of myself? " 

''Well, it's so'' answered the deacon; 
'' it 's so right along. Why, I never thought 
so much of my Bible class, nor took no 
sech int'rest in 'em as I do to-day — not 
since I begun to teach. I b'lieve they'll 
come more reg'lar now, too. 

'' Now come fellowship day. I thought 
that would be all plain sailin' ; seemed as 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



17 



though 1 'd got warmed up till I felt pleasant 
towardst everybody ; so I went around seein* 
folks that was neighbors, and *twas easy; 
but when I come home at noon spell, 
Philur)' says, says she, * Square Tucker's 
black bull is into th' orchard a-tearin' round, 
and he 's knocked two lengths o' fence down 




^';^;J ■^.•i 




7'/ 



f^*^' 

i 



flat ! ' Well, the old Adam riz up then, you 'd 
better b'lieve. That black bull has been 
a-breakin* into my lots ever sence we got 
in th* aftermath, and it's Square Tucker's 
fence, and he won't make it bull-strong as 
he 'd oughter, and that orchard was a young 
one jest comin' to bear, and all the new 



i8 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



wood crisp as cracklin's with frost. You 'd 
better b'lieve I did n't have much feller- 
feehn' with Amos Tucker. I jest put over 
to his house and spoke up pretty free to 
him, when he looked up and says, says he, 
'Fellowship meetin' day, a'n't it. Deacon?' 

I'd ruther he'd 
ha' slapped my 
face. I felt 
as though I 
should like to 
slip behind 
the door. I 
see pretty dis- 
tinct what sort 
of life I 'dbeen 
. I . livin' all the 

M^'^V^^ years I 'd 
been a pro- 
fessor, when I could n't hold on to my tongue 
and temper one day ! " 

'' Breth-e-ren," interrupted a slow, harsh 
voice, somewhat broken with emotion, ''Til 
tell the rest on 't. Josiah Emmons come 




ant" ^", OUcuxm/? 



7 nr I) J- n-() v <: w i- i- k' 



^9 



around like a man an' a Christian right 
there. He asked me for to forgive him, 
and not to think 't was the fault of his 
religion, because 'twas his 'n and nothin* 
else. I think more of him to-day than I ever 
done before. I was one that would n't say 
I 'd practice with the rest of ye. I thought 
't was everlastin' nonsense. I 'd ruther go to 
forty-nine prayer meetin's than work at bein' 
good a week. I b'lieve my hope has been 
one of them that perish ; it ha'n't worked, 
and I leave it behind to-day. I mean to 
begin honest, and it was seein* one honest 
Christian man fetched me round to't." 

Amos Tucker sat down and buried his 
grizzled head in his rough hands. 

** Bless the Lord!" said the quavering 
tones of a still older man from a far corner 
of the house, and many a glistening eye 
gave silent response. 

Go on, Brother Emmons," said the min- 
ister. 

*'Well, when m .vi via; v^iMu^ i -i.L Lip to 
make the fin- nnd my boy Joe had forgot 



20 THE DEACON'S WEEK 

the kindlin's. I 'd opened my mouth to give 
him Jesse, when it come over me suddin 
that this was the day of prayer for the family 
relation. I thought I would n't say nothin'. 
I jest fetched in the kindlin's myself, and 
when the fire burnt up good I called wife. 

'' ' Dear 'me ! ' says she. ' I Ve got such 
a headache, 'Siah, but I 11 come in a minnit/ 
I did n't mind that, for w^omen are always 
havin' aches, and I was jest a-goin' to say 
so, when I remembered the tex' about not 
bein' bitter against 'em, so I says, ' Philury, 
you lay abed. I expect Emmy and me can 
get the vittles to-day.' I declare she turned 
over and give me sech a look ; why, it struck 
right in. There was my wife, thai had 
worked for an' waited on me twenty-odd 
year, 'most scart because I spoke kind o' 
feelin' to her. I went out and fetched in the 
pail o' water she 'd always drawed herself, 
and then 1 milked the cow. When I come 
in Philury was up fryin' the potatoes, and 
the tears a-shinin' on her white face. She 
did n't say nothin', she 's kinder still, but she 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



21 




had lit no need to. I 
felt a little meaner 'n 
I did the day before. 
But't wa' n't nothin'to 
my condition when I 
was a-goin\ towards 
night, down the sullar 
stairs for some apples, 
so 's the children could 
have a roast, and I 
heered Joe up in the kitchen say to Emmy, 
* I do b'lieve, Em, pa 's goin' to die.' ' Why, 

J o s i a r F2 m - 

'^ \ C^^W: mons, how you 

talk!' 'Well, 
I do ; he 's so 
eve r 1 a s ti n ' 
pleasant an' 
\ good-nateredl 
can't but tliink 
he's struck witn ucath.' 

** I tell ye. brethren, I set right down wn 
them sullar stairs and cried. I did, reely. 
Seemed as though the Lord had turned 




22 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



and looked at me jest as he did at Peter. 
Why, there was my own children never see 

me act real fatherly 
and pretty in all 
their lives. I 'd 
growled and scold- 
ed and prayed at 
'em, and tried to 
fetch 'em up jest as 
the twig is bent the 
tree 's inclined, ye 
know, but I had n't 
never thought that 
they 'd got right and 
reason to expect I 'd 
do my part as well 
as they their 'n. 
Seemed as though I was findin' out more 
about Josiah Emmons' shortcomin's than was 
real agreeable. 

'' Come around Friday I got back to the 
store. I 'd kind o' left it to the boys the 
early part of the week, and tilings was a 
little cuterin', but I did have sens(^ not to 




THE DEACON'S WEEK 23 

tear round and use sharp words so much as 
common. I began to think 'twas gettin' 
easy to practice after five days, when in 
come Judge Herrick's wife after some 
curt'in calico. I had a han'some piece, all 
done off with roses an' things, but there 
was a fault in the weavin' — every now and 
then a thin streak. She did n't notice it, but 
she was pleased with the figures on 't, and 
said she 'd take the w^hole piece. Well, jest 
as I was wrappin' of it up, what Mr. Parkes 
here said about tryin' to act jest as the Lord 
would in our place, come acrost me. Why, 
I turned as red as a beet, I know I did. It 
made me all of a tremble. There was I, a 
doorkeeper in the tents of my God, as 
David says, really cheating and cheatin' a 
woman ! I tell ye, brethren, I was all of a 
sweat. ' Mis' Herrick,' says I, 'I don't 
b'lieve you 've looked real close at this goods ; 
't ain't thorough wove,' says I. So she did n't 
take it ; but what fetched me was to think 
how many times I *d done sech mean, onreli- 
able little things to turn a penny, and all the 



24 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



time sayin' and prayin' that I wanted to be 
like Christ. I kep' a-trippin' of myself up all 
day jest in the ordinary business, and I was 
a peg lower down when night come than I 




was a Thursday. I 'd ruther, as far as the 
hard work is concerned, lay a mile of four- 
foot stone wall than undertake to do a man's 
livin' Christian duty for twelve workin' hours ; 
and the heft of that is, it's because I ain't 
used to it and I ought to be. 



////'. J'/.AiU.\ ■> \\I:l\I\ 



-'D 



** So this mornin' came around, and I felt 
a mite more cherk. T was missionary morn- 
in', and seemed as if 'twas a sight easier to 
preach than to practice. I thought I 'd begin 




.j/-^*^ v^^ 



to old Mis' Vedder's. So I put a Testament 
in my pocket and knocked to her door. Says 
I, ' Good mornin', ma'am,' and then I stopped. 
Words seemed to hang, somehow. I did n't 
want to pop right out that I 'd come over to 
try 'n' convert her folks. I hemmed and 



26 THE DEACON'S WEEK, 

swallered a little, and fin'lly I said, says I, 
' We don't see you to meetin' very frequent, 
Mis' Vedder.' 

" ' No, you don't ! ' says she as quick as 
a wink. * I stay to home and mind my 
business.' 

'' 'Well, we should like to hev you come 
along with us and do ye good,' says I, sort 
of conciliatin'. 

'' ' Look a here. Deacon ! ' she snapped, 
* I Ve lived alongside of you fifteen year, and 
you knowed I never went to meetin' ; we 
a'n't a pious lot, and you knowed it ; we 're 
poorer 'n death and uglier 'n sin. Jim, he 
drinks and swears, and Malviny do' 'no' her 
letters. She knows a heap she had n't ought 
to, besides. Now what are you a-comin' 
here to-day for, I 'd like to know, and talkin' 
so glib about meetin' ? Go to meetin' ! I '11 
go or come, jest as I darn please, for all you. 
Now get out o' this ! ' Why, she come at 
me with a broomstick ! There was n't no need 
on 't ; what she said was enough. \.hadnt 
never asked her nor her'n to so much as 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 2 J 

thiniv o! j^oudncss ijcioK!. i iu;ii i went to 
another place jest like that — 1 won't call no 
more names ; and sure enough there was ten 
children in rags, the hull of em, and the man 
half drunk. He giv^' it to me, too ; and I 




•-^^ 



don't w^onder. I 'd never lifted a hand to serve 
nor save 'em before in all these years. I 'd 
said consider'ble about the heathen in foreign 
parts, and give some little for to convert 'em, 
and I had looked right over the heads of 
them that was next door. Seemed as if I 



28 



THE DEACON'S WEEK 



could hear Him say, ' These ought ye to have 
done, and not have left the other undone.' 
I could n't face another soul to-day, brethren. 
I come home, and here I be. I ve been 
searched through and through and found 
wantin'. God be merciful to me a sinner ! " 




He dropped into his seat and bowed his 
head ; and many another bent, too. It was 
plain that the deacon's experience was not 
the only one among the brethren. Mr. 
Parkes rose, and prayed as he had never 
prayed before ; the week of practice had 
fired his heart too. And it began a mem- 
orable year for the church in Sugar Hollow ; 
not a vear of excitement or enthusiasm, but 



THE DF A COST'S WEEK 29 

one wncii inc)' iujaru iiujir Lord saying as to 
Israel of old, *' Go forward/' and they obeyed 
his voice. The Sunday-school flourished, 
the church ser\'ices were fully attended, every 
good thing* was helped on its way, and 
peace reigned in their homes and hearts, 
imperfect, perhaps, as new growths are, but 
still an ofishoot of the peace past under- 
standing. 

And another year they will keep another 
w^eek of practice, by common consent. 



WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 










'THE DEACON AND MIS' BAXTER WENT TO SUNDAY- 
SCHOOL." 



WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 



IT was a calm, sweet sunset. I had been 
to church with the deacon in the morn- 
ing, and, lying in the hammock, had read The 
CongregationaHst while he arni '* Mis* Bax- 
ter'* went to Sunday-school ; for I was only 
a summer boarder at the farm, and, like most 









■^.^ 



summer boarders, I had left my work behind 
me for a few weeks of absolute rest. I 
thought I had done my full share when I 
went to hear old Parson Simpson preach that 
morning. Just now the deacon, having had 



34 



WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 



his supper and done his chores, sat down on 
the front doorstep to enjoy the utter quiet ; 
and I lay stretched on the grass just below, 




thinking of an article I had been reading. 
Before us spread a vast amphitheater of fold- 
ing hills, with silent, darkling forests clothing 
every crest, their verdant foothills meeting in 
a narrow intervale, and their blue distances 
keeping well the secret of the hidden water- 
courses that in the stillness sent up the plash 
and fall of their downward leap and made 
the air musical. 

The deacon's benign face, wrinkled with 
many a year of toil and trouble, seemed 
touched with that solemn peace of the moun- 



WHAT DEACOX HAXTLK SAW 



35 



tains. His kind old eyes were pathetic in 
their expression of patient expectance. I 
thought, glancing up at him, of the Psalm- 
ist's words: ''I will lift up mine eyes unto 




the hills, from whence cometh my help. My 
help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven 
and earth." But my mind was filled with a 
sort of uncertain pleasure that yet I half 



36 WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 

doubted. I wanted the deacon's opinion, so 
I interrupted his quiet. 

'* Deacon/' said I, ''did you read a letter 
in your last paper giving a man's reasons for 
not wishing to join the church, though rang- 
ing himself on the side of religion, signed 
' Veza ' ? " 

"Well, I did," said he. ''Poor feller! 
poor feller ! " he added in a tone of the ten- 
derest pity. 

"Why," I resumed, "I liked it so much! 
It's just the way I feel myself." 

"Do ye? Well, well! Say, Cap'en, you 
went to the war, did n't ye ? " 

" Yes, I 'm glad and proud to say I did. 
I was all through it, from the first volunteer- 
ing to Lee's surrender. That 's where I got 
the bullet in my hip that 's given me a limp, 
and had those two fingers shot off, besides 
two months of typhoid in camp at Talla- 
hassee." 

" What made you go ? " 

"Why, deacon, what else could a man do 
who loved his country?" 



H'l/AT DEACON BAXTER SAID 37 

** Still, the' was some who stayed to home." 

**That IS so, I 'm sorry to say." 

** Well, now, I 'd like to ask a few questions 
about it all. I could n't go myself. I was 
lame from a boy ; put out my hip by a fall, 
and 't was n't set right, so they would n't take 
me. I did what I could to home, but I 
always felt real interested in the hull thing ; 
and when I beared you say the other day 
somethin' about your old rigiment, I thought 
I 'd like to have a dish of talk with ye about 
it, and perhaps now 's a good time." 

I did not think how the deacon had sud- 
denly changed the subject from " Veza's" 
letter and my sympathy with it ; for the w^ar 
with its glorious results was the theme of all 
others that interested me ; and all was just 
now freshly recalled, as I searched eagerly 
every day for the bulletins of my grand old 
general's condition, dying by inches where 
he lay on the heights of Mount McGregor, 
spared by shot and shell to be tortured for 
months with deadly and terrible disease. 

** What shall I tell you about ?" I asked. 



38 WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 

''How came you first to think o' j'inin* 
the army ? " 

'' Why, I wanted to help fight the rebels, and 
then I hoped to help do away with slavery; 
that was a second thought, perhaps." 

'' You did n't have any doubts nor hanker- 
ings about which side you 'd fight on ? " 

*' No ! I meant to be on the right side, 
whether we beat or were whipped. But I 
did n't expect to be beaten. I remember one 
line of a verse I saw somewhere once kept 
ringing and singing in my ears, — 

' Forward, and God defend the right ! ' 

and I meant to help defend it." 

'' I suppose you liked the folks in your com- 
pany, too, and that made it pleasant for you ? " 




** No, I did n't, not all of them. There 
were some of the worst fellows I ever saw in 



IVHAT DEACON BAXTER SAW 39 

our regiment ; low rascals who cursed like 
pirates and stole even our rations, if they 
could get at them. I gave one fellow a good 
sound kicking for swearing about Grant when 
we got down to Shiloh. I don't believe he 
used his vile tongue against the general for 
one while again. Then there were a parcel 
of gamblers, drunken bullies, who were good 
food for powder, nothing else : a perfect 
disgrace to the army." 

*' I suppose they fit pretty well, though, 
did n't they?" 

*' No, sir ; the best men were the best 
fighters. These fellows shirked and malin- 
gered and ran when they got a chance. Lots 
of *em deserted while w^e were near home ; 
they could n't very well when we were in the 
enemy's countr)^" 

*' What made 'em join the army, do you 
suppose ? 

*' Oh, some of them did it for the sound of 
it. They got excited ; they liked the interest 
everybody felt then in volunteers ; they had 
one eye on the pay and bounty, too. I 



40 



WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 



think some of them expected 'twould be a 
good thing for them afterward. It has proved 
good capital for beggars ever since. Lots of 
people will help an old soldier, w^ho would n't 
give one cent to a common tramp." 




'' I should n't think you 'd have liked to 
fight alongside such folks." 

''I didn't; but then my business was to 
fight, whether or no. I 'd enlisted for the 
war. The general was all right. I 'd got to 
obey orders myself, and I could n't fall out of 



IVI/AT DEACON BAXTER SAID 41 

ranks because my ri^ht-haiul man in file was 
half drunk, or the one on the left singing a 
vile song. I did blow at them a good deal, 
but 1 could n't desert in the face of the 
enemy." 

'* Frhaps you would n't have 'listed if you 'd 
known what sort of fellers was to be in your 
rigiment ? " 

**Why, yes, I should. I tell you I wanted 
to fight those confounded rebels. I did n't 
care who went along, if I only went myself. 
I w^as going to fight my country's battles, 
whether the men along with me w^ere good 
or bad. I did n't trouble my head about 
them." 

"You want airaid folks would think you 
was one of em ? " 

** I did n't think about it any way. I 'd 
got to march, to forage, to camp, to fight, to 
retreat ; in short, to obey orders. I did n't 
stop to consider what the stay-at-homes 
thought about me or my comrades." 

*' You had a pretty hard time ? " 

** Yes, but that we expected after w^e got 



42 V/IIAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 

used to the business. It was n't play ; it was 
business^ 

'' Ain*t you a little queer ? " said he, looking 
at me with sad, serious eyes. '' You did all 
this, and you won't enlist under the Lord of 
Hosts because there 's just such a lot of folks 
takes the name of his soldiers upon them- 
selves as there was in the fedVal army." 

I sat dumb. 

The deacon went on : '' Can't you obey His 
orders, and fight under him same as you did 
under Grant because there is hypocrites and 
backsliders in his Church ? What if you 'd 
said, ' I '11 fight on my own hook rather than 
beside these scallawags and rascals ; I won't 
enlist, but I '11 take my gun and go raiding 
around, and do my level best without wearin' 
uniform or gettin' into line or under orders ' ? 
If that is the right way to fight, why don't 
people do it ? Why don't the generals say, 
'Go along, do your best; whatever 's right 
in your own eyes, foller that ' ? Why, there 
would be no race nor people left on the face 
of the airth, if they done so. Here's this 



< <. <.'. \ /> » .\ / 



43 



poor ' Veza/ he s too good to eat with pubH- 
cans and sinners at his Master's table. Is 
the disciple above his Lord ? Just look back 
and see how Jesus Christ fixed the first Chris- 
tian Church, and who was in it. There w^as 
Thomas, who would n't believe the Lord was 
risen onless he could put his finger right into 
the nail holes in his hands. That was n't a 
great deal like faith, was it ? Then there was 
Peter went and denied him three times, and 
the Lord knew he was goin' to do it ; and 
well he knew that Judas would betray him 
into the hands of them that would crucify 
him on the cross. But he sat down with 
them all at the table, and gave to them 
his last commands, and shared with them the 
sacramental bread and wine. Why, I think 
he did it a-purpose, so 's that we should not 
set ourselves up above anybody. 

** I suppose it's natural that you and this 
* Veza,' and a good many other folks, should 
feel the way you do, for I Ve been there my- 
self before now. There 's been times when 
I have knowed evil about church members. 



44 IVI/AT DEACON BAXTER SAID 

and such evil that it seemed as though I 
couldn't pass the bread and wine to 'em, or 
take it myself in their comp'ny ; but some- 
how I fell back on the Lord, how he set there 
and ate the supper with them he knowed 
well was false and murderous and deceitful ; 
and I thought if he could do it, who was I to 
set up that I could n't ? 

''*Veza' says he knows there is better 
Christians in the Church than he is. Well, 
if that 's so, why can't he train with them ? 
And how does he know but what some of 
these folks he despises are sayin' in their 
own hearts, ' God be merciful to me a sin- 
ner ! ' whilst that he is thankin' God that he 
is n't as they are ? 

'' I tell you, folks don't seem to under- 
stand that a man has got to grow in grace in 
the Church. It is a strait gate and a narrow 
way, and people will stray and stumble 
therein ; but after all Christ says, ' Enter in 
at the strait gate,' and ' Whosoever therefore 
shall confess me before men, him will I con- 
fess also before my Father which is in 



heaven ; but whosoever shall deny me be- 
fore men, him will I also deny before my 
Father which is in heaven.' There's your 
orders, Cap'en." And the old man looked 
at me with such a grand, sweet look that I 
turned my own face -aw^w T wns not rrady 
to speak. 

Presently, however, words came to me. 
** But, Deacon Baxter, you must own that 
the sins and shortcomings of so-called Chris- 
tians are a great stumbling-block to many." 

** Yes, to them that want to stumble ; but 
I never yet heard anybody that was really 
new- hearted and in dead airnest to serve the 
Lord, who was kept out of the Church by 
the poor professors in it, any more than you 
was kept out of the fedVal army by the ras- 
cals and dead beats you knowed was in your 
rigiment when you 'listed. I am willin', and 
more than willin', to allow that the average 
church member don't live as he 'd ought 
to live, and them that do ought to stir up 
them that don't. 

'' The Lord said to Peter, ' When thou art 



46 WHAT DEACON BAXTER SAID 

converted strengthen thy brethren,' as much 
as to say Peter was n't converted ; yet he 
was one of the twelve, one of the visible 
Church ; so I believe there is some in every 
church who ain't converted, and when they 
are, why, their duty is to strengthen the rest 
from their own experience. And there 's 
some that are backsliders ; they 've died 
down to the roots, as you may say, same as 
young trees will in a cold winter or a long 
dry spell ; but, if the livin' root is in them, 
they '11 sprout up ag'in an' grow. If it is n't, 
then they '11 have to be cast into the fire, for 
what I see. But neither for you nor for this 
'Veza,' Cap'en, is there any gettin' away 
from the Word of God. * He that is not for 
me is against me.' And I can't add nothing 
to the Word of the Lord ; for it is his, not 
mine." 



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